Monday, August 10, 2009

Origami Paper, Tie-dye, and Birthday Parties

I first started doing tie-dye six years ago, when my older daughter wanted a tie-dye theme for her sixth-birthday party. I did some reading, a friend pointed out the Dharma website, I got some supplies, I tried it out a couple of weeks in advance, it came out well, and I was hooked.

Since then I've helped about a thousand people do tie-dye: more than 500 first graders, a couple of Girl Scout troops, several birthday and other parties, my class for middle schoolers, several kids' day camp and family camp sessions, three corporate team-building events, and lots of random sessions with friends. I love doing tie-dye as a hobby, but I'm actually more interested in teaching it to other people. I have no interest in doing it as a production-and-craft-fairs profession--Harmony can do a much better job, and I recognize their distinctive work on people all over town.

I've mentioned before how I like to sneak in a little education when I teach people how to do tie-dye. Math, spatial skills, and so on. They get practice in colors and manual dexterity. And of course I think doing tie-dye is good for the soul, too. No, buying the mass-market tie-dye t-shirts at the local big-box store doesn't count.

Origami (paper folding) and kirigami (paper cutting) are similar crafts that exercise those same mental and physical "muscles". I did lots of origami as a kid, and I loved it. I've also done some kirigami; those paper snowflakes I did in school were just the beginning. True, you don't end up with the same wearable results as with tie-dye (including shibori), but visualizing how the project is going to turn out is half the fun for all three crafts, as is the pleasure (for me) of folding materials precisely.

Lately I've been playing with origami paper as a quick and concrete way to visualize how various folds might come out in tie-dye. The basic paper is cheap, thin, colorful, and easy to fold (I get 60 sheets for $1.50 USD at the local Daiso store). I've been folding it up in various wedges, squares, or rectangles, then piercing it in patterns using a push-pin into a small block of firm packaging foam. I particularly like the foam that feels a little soft and waxy (not Styrofoam/polystyrene), but anything you can easily push a pin into will work fine.

I put the resulting pierced "snowflakes" up on a window so I can see the light pattern through them (dark paper colors work best), and they are very pretty.

My kids joined in, of course, producing some beautiful ones of their own. My younger daughter folded her paper in random directions before piercing it, and she came out with some very intriguing designs.

These paper creations were so easy, so fun, so cheap, and so clean (no cut-out pieces to sweep up!) that I added them to the activities roster for my younger daughter's ninth birthday party (a crafts theme, naturally) a couple weeks ago. It was a definite hit with most of the kids. For the goody bags (party favors), I sent home the foam blocks and push-pins the kids used, along with a fresh packet of origami paper for each child, in hope that they might do some more later and keep flexing those brains.

Now I'm starting to work on translating a few of those paper designs into tie-dye.

I'm using the fold-along-a-drawn-line technique shown in both of my favorite DVDs about tie-dye:
  • "Learn How to Tie Dye: Complete 3 Volume Set" available from Dharma or Amazon
  • "The Art of Tie-Dye" available from Dharma or Amazon

Sometimes I'm stitching the designs with dental floss, sometimes I'm just tying the designs without stitching. The more complex designs need to be stitched so they don't slip apart.

I haven't dyed any of these yet, and they won't come out exactly like the paper patterns, but I'll post them when I do. In the meantime, try out some paper pattern piercing!

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Tie-dyeing Blue Jeans

I had a couple of pairs of jeans that I wasn't wearing because they had blemishes in strategic locations, as well as some swapped jeans I picked up at the Maker Faire recently. And while I have dozens of tie-dyed shirts that I wear all the time, none of my jeans are (intentionally) tie-dyed. Time to change that.

Color on Color

I often get questions about dyeing garments that aren't white. I've done it a fair amount, but it's a little tricky. You have to remember that the colors are ADDITIVE. So if you start with a yellow shirt and put blue dye on it, you get green. Purple on yellow gives you brown, and so on. Also, the colors you put on may seem a little dull compared to how they would look on white. So it's worth trying, because you can get some interesting effects (blue and purple on a pale blue shirt looks good), but you may not get the results you expect or hope for.

Here, I did a crinkle pattern on a pair of light-blue 100% cotton Levi's (left) and the exact same crinkle pattern on a pair of medium-blue Gloria Vanderbilt partly-spandex stretch Amanda jeans (on the right). I smushed them both up into wrinkly pancakes, along with the shorts below, and I dyed all three pieces side-by-side with the same colors. I actually squirted the dyes on all three pieces with the same strokes of each color.

The Levi's give a much more vibrant and almost crystalline crinkle effect than the Vanderbilt jeans. The lighter original color of the Levi's gives a much better contrast with the dye colors than the darker blue, though I like both. The interesting part, though, is that the colors on the Levi's jeans look much crisper and sharper than on the Vanderbilt jeans. The denim of the Levi's is thicker and much stiffer than the Vanderbilt denim, giving the crinkles more definition. I think the thicker denim also prevents the soda ash from soaking in quite as well into the Levi's, leaving more undyed fibers in the denim (both pairs soaked for the same amount of time), helping the Levi's look a little brighter in the center parts of the crinkles.

The cargo shorts are from Lands' End in the light greyish color they call "light stone". My daughter managed to spill chocolate on them in strategic places almost immediately, so they were definitely in need of revamping with dye. These were the third piece in my crinkled assembly line. The light grey is almost white, but not enough to really brighten the dye colors.

My daughter likes them more now than in the original grey color, of course, and likes the hoodie I did for her while I was at it.

Stripes Front and Back

This is another medium-blue pair of the Vanderbilt jeans (my usual). This one really demonstrates the effect of working with multiple layers of thick, stiff fabric such as this denim.

Since the fabric is so thick, very little dye bleeds through from dyeing the folded piece on one side, so it's easy to get thick-and-thin effects on the stripes by dyeing a little less or more on the two sides of the folded piece, and it's hard to get dye all the way to the center of the pleats. In this pair, I folded first down the center of the jeans so the back is on the inside, then I pleated the whole thing starting up from the ankles. I like the multi-thickness effect, though.

Here is how they look on (and one of my current favorite shirts--bright enough to hurt the eyeballs!).

And the back...I like the two-toned effect on the legs here (mine, not Lacey's).

A Few Bonus Shirts

I dyed a few shirts for my daughters while I was at it. The third shirt from the left was twisted up like a hank of yarn and then dyed in stripes across it. The shirt on the right was a spiral started near the right shoulder.

Lacey Is at It Again

Such a big help!

My squeaky toy!